Citizens Raise More Concerns about Fate of these Biodiverse Lands in our Region
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted November 23rd, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Calls and email were being fired back and forth rather furiously for the past few days leading up to this post – between citizens in the Niagara area, and between them and elected representatives, and municipal and provincial staffers – over what is happening to trees and other natural features inside Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls?
This close to 500 acres of trees, provincially significant wetlands and meadows hosting a diversity of wildlife in the Niagara River watershed – is now owned by a China-based corporation called GR (CAN) Investment Ltd. Inc. that is still waiting for final permits to build a massive, billion-dollar-plus, what it calls “Riverfront Community” on pieces of the land in the southwest end of the city.
Many citizens in Niagara Falls and other parts of the region and province and been pressing for more than three years now to save this rich green area from development while the mayor of the city, Jim Diodati, Niagara Region’s outgoing chair, Al Caslin, and others have been arguing for urban development to go in this place in the name of economic growth and jobs.
On top of all that, there are recurring rumours that GR and its China-based investors are losing patience, so when citizens in the area hear or see any activity involving heavy machinery in Thundering Waters they grow very concerned.
So when word began circulating in recent days that there was some heavy machinery and mud roads being cut into the woods on the property that phone call and email storm began – fast and furious.
And so did a few photos of what has allegedly been going on at the Thundering Forest site in days gone by, like this one –
The photo above was taken by a Niagara area citizen along the edge of the forest, off of Dorchester Road.
Here (below) is another photo taken along the forest in recent days –
I made a phone call to the City of Niagara Falls’ planning department this November 23rd to ask what was going around what could be seen in these images given the public concern they were raising and was told I had to speak to the city’s planning director, Alex Herlovitch.
I was further told that he was out of the office for the day but I could email, with a request to know what was going on at the site in recent days. Herlovitch emailed me back to let me know he would not be back in the office until next week.
In the meantime, he suggested that I call the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) about the matter which I decided not to do because I have a hard time giving much weight to information coming out of the NPCA with the group in charge of it now. I will wait for another month or two for a new NPCA board of directors to be put in place, thank you very much.
With that, I put in a call to the Niagara Falls office for developer, GR, and got the company’s director of administration, Marilyn Tian, on the line. She told me this November 23rd that any work that may have been going on at the site had “stopped” and that the GR has been doing nothing that might violate any permits or rules.
Tian then said that if I had any more questions I would have to talk to GR’s chairwoman Helen Chang when she is available sometime in the coming week. Better that than possibly make the mistake of putting out any “misinformation” in the meantime, she said.
Fair enough. I don’t want to put out any misinformation, but in the meantime, members of the public remain anxious to know what is going on inside this forested area that they remain determined to save and that at least some have said they hope GR can somehow swap for another place in Niagara where there isn’t the diversity of wildlife, the number of trees and provincially significant wetlands hanging in the balance.
Keep the development and any economic and job benefits it promises. Just put it in a place where it leaves a lighter footprint on the natural landscape.
As for whatever activities took place on the Thundering Waters site in recent days, the public concerns raised here happen to coincide with protests by citizens in neighbouring Niagara-on-the-Lake about the cutting down of trees by a developer on the old Randwood Estate there, and inside the Waverly Woods and Waverly Beach area which citizens their value for the wildlife and for the War of 1812 and post War of 1812 history that took place there.
It is interesting, to say the least, that all of this activity is taking place before new municipal councils are sworn in across Niagara in the days ahead – councils, including the one at the Region, that may have larger numbers of councillors less open to urbanizing much more of our region’s green places than the outgoing councils were.
Niagara At Large will have more news and commentary on what needs to be done to strengthen Niagara Region’s Tree Protection Bylaw and the need for citizens to work with members of the new councils, and hopefully a brand new board of directors at the NPCA, to reform and enforce it.
Stay with us here for those commentaries and more, and join the discussion and debate by sharing your own views too.
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